Pakistan chase unlikely series draw
Match factsAugust 26, 2010, Lord's
Start time 11.00 (1000GMT)
England's Test season has been given an unexpectedly high-octane finish as they head to Lord's trying to reassert their authority over Pakistan and prevent the visitors pulling the series back to 2-2. While a remarkable turnaround of this sort was never dismissed as impossible - Pakistan have built a reputation around being unpredictable, after all - few would have backed the visitors after they were thrashed by 354 runs and nine wickets in the first two Tests at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston.
Mohammad Yousuf's Lazarus-like return to Test cricket was a catalyst for last week's fittingly dramatic four-wicket scramble to victory at The Oval, but Steven Finn insisted: "having Yousuf in the team doesn't make them a different team at all". His impact, though, was clear.
As important as the runs Yousuf scores his calming effect on the batsmen around him - Azhar Ali being a prime example - should not be underestimated. His 56 in the first innings set up Pakistan's first total over 300 this summer and when he departed for 33 in their second innings chase the panic and indecision that have plagued the visitors' young batsmen came flooding back.
For England, Lord's offers a chance to throw off the creeping doubts that have hung around despite a successful run in the past year which has included regaining the Ashes and drawing in South Africa. Despite all the talk of focussing on the task at hand the looming Ashes rematch has been a constant sub-plot to the season.
Can Kevin Pietersen can get his strut back? Can the seam attack show their mettle when wickets cannot be picked up at will? Has Alastair Cook's Oval renaissance marked an end to his recession or is he heading for a double-dip? Still lots of questions, and just one Test left.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Watch out for...
After his run of 63, 92 and 45 against Australia, England's attack made Salman Butt appear woefully out of sorts as his next five Test innings brought returns of 1, 8, 7, 0, and 17. His second-innings 48 at The Oval suggested that he was finding his way back to some sort of form, however, and after dropping down one place to No. 3 his middle-order alliance with Yousuf could provide the ballast to Pakistan's flighty line-up.
Kevin Pietersen is known to raise his game for the big occasion, and with England arguably the team under more pressure with the weight of expectation on their shoulders going into the fourth Test, the stage could be set for a vintage performance from him. Though he undoubtedly has the full backing of the England set-up despite the scratchiness of his recent dispalys, Pietersen will be hungry for a big score to end the season on a high.
England have added Tim Bresnan to their squad for the final Test, but it is unlikely he will make it into a final XI. As in the build-up to The Oval, Bresnan is only on standby for any late injury scares.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn
For once Pakistan's team won't contain any surprises, or changes. The one issue was whether Umar Gul had recovered sufficiently from his hamstring injury to be in contention for selection, but given Wahab Riaz's memorable five-for on debut at The Oval, he has been backed by the management and will retain his place for Lord's. Gul is a vital cog in Pakistan's limited-overs side, and wasn't going to be rushed back into the side if there was any chance of aggravating his injury.
Pakistan 1 Yasir Hameed, 2 Imran Farhat, 3 Salman Butt (capt), 4 Azhar Ali, 5 Mohammad Yousuf, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Mohammad Amir, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Asif
Pitch and conditions
Lord's has a reputation for high-scoring matches and the pitch should provide a welcome respite for both side's batsmen after the bowler-friendly conditions encountered so far. That said, it's been a long time since a Test was staged here so late in the season so there is an element of uncertainty as to the pitch. Another factor to consider is the weather with rain a distinct possibility over the first two days. All in all, this could well be the first Test since Bangladesh's visit to the same venue at the beginning of the season to go five days.
Stats and Trivia
- The last time these two sides met at Lord's, in 2006, the result was a high-scoring draw. Five centuries were recorded in the course of the match, with Mohammad Yousuf's fluent 202 topping the list.
- Kamran Akmal's keeping appeared much improved at The Oval, but his batting in English conditions remains dire. After scoring 10 and 0, his average against the home team in their own conditions stands at 11.10.
- James Anderson is the leading wicket-taker in the series by some distance with 20 - a personal best for him in a Test series. Graeme Swann and Mohammad Amir are behind him with 13 scalps each.
"All players suffer a bad spell in their career with the bat ... I will look at the way [Alastair Cook] has fought back with the bat as an inspiration and hope I can do the same at Lord's."
Kamran Akmal is hoping to make a contribution with the bat as well as the gloves after a decidedly lean run this summer
"We've bowled Pakistan out for 72 and 80 so far, so there's a batting collapse waiting to happen."
Steven Finn insists he can still see the frailties in Pakistan's line-up despite the return of Mohammad Yousuf
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo in the UK